Last month I wrote about what to do with an under-performing board member. The follow up question that we often hear is “Does losing a board member mean losing their donation?” That depends on why you are losing a board member. The reasons may include because the board member:
- stopped showing up to meetings but still tries to contribute via email.
- pops in from time to time and tries to be super helpful (read: has thoughts on all the work that every other person has done) and then isn’t seen for a couple of months. And then repeats the cycle.
- takes on responsibilities but then never follows through with anything.
- rarely responds to anything you send and often leaves email unopened.
- is toxic but has a lot of money.
The first question I would have is, do you want to save the relationship? How much time and energy are you spending on this person? And, what else could you be doing to replace the departing board member’s donation?
If they answer is that you still value what they offer, be prepared to put in work and be creative.
Full disclosure: over time their funding may shift as they become involved in another organization that looks good on LinkedIn. Sorry if that is too cynical but we all know those board members.
Does losing a board member mean losing their donation? There can be any number of ways to retain the relationship, but they all boil down to one point: Keep them engaged.
- Are they willing to sit down and speak with you or the board president? You could ask how they would like to be involved if they don’t have the time or the focus right now. Try to gauge whether they are looking for a once-a-year activity, once a month activity, or are just happy to be listed as a prominent donor or trustee.
- Would they be willing to serve on a committee instead of the board? For example, it could be a committee that meets infrequently. Remember, the idea is to keep them engaged.
- Survey the entire board, which is always a good idea on an annual basis. . The underperforming board member may not be the only person who is questioning the relationship with your organization. And asking advice is always a good way to deepen a connection. Include questions like:
- What do you wish you knew about the board before you joined?
- Has your board experience improved, stayed the same, or deteriorated over the past 3 years?
- Would you be willing to mentor someone new on the board? Why or why not?
- Would you encourage a friend to join the board? Why or why not?
- Offer board training. It may sound counter-intuitive to ask this person to spend more time with you, but it may be that they are bored with what they are doing. An educational opportunity might excite, and reengage, them.
- Hire a consultant to assess your board and your organization. Is the underperforming board member the problem? Could it be the board/board president, a staff member, the direction of the nonprofit, pressure from the community to do more, or some other reason your board has become an uncomfortable place to be. And getting rid of the one person may not solve your problems.
If it is time to strengthen your board, email me to talk about how MJA can help.